Environment Protection
September 13, 2017, Sioux Falls, SD – On paper, bigger is safer. South Dakota's regulations for large livestock operations are strict enough that even some water quality boosters believe larger, permitted feedlots are better for the state's waters than smaller, unregulated ones.

But how strictly are the strict rules enforced?

Critics worry the complaint-driven system falls short, with its announced inspections and what they see as plodding responses to reports of pollution. READ MORE
Published in State
September 13, 2017, Lancaster, PA – The majority of farms got passing grades in Pennsylvania’s first year of expanded inspections in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Sixty-five percent of farms inspected under the new program met the manure-management planning requirements, and 63 percent were compliant on erosion and sedimentation planning. READ MORE
Published in State
September 12, 2017, Lancaster, PA – At the third Waste to Worth conference in mid-April in Raleigh, NC, one of the topics covered was evaluating agricultural best management practices in the Chesapeake Bay program.

A major objective is to bring science-based facts to support the use of practices that will improve the watershed and be reflected in the bay model. READ MORE
Published in Other
September 7, 2017, Kingsley, IA – After a recent report of a manure spill from a sow facility in Plymouth County, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources found manure had reached a small creek about four miles northwest of Kingsley.

The spill, which occurred over the weekend, came from a sow facility.

It’s unknown how much manure spilled. The unnamed stream has low flows, is very small and there were no fish in it. Iowa DNR staff found low dissolved oxygen levels in the stream, but no evidence that the manure had reached Johns Creek about one mile downstream.

Most of the manure was captured by a berm near the facility. Any manure from the tributary will be pumped up and land applied.

Iowa DNR will continue to monitor the cleanup progress and consider appropriate enforcement action.

Published in Swine
September 5, 2017, Manawa, WI - Although manure provides valuable nutrients, especially nitrogen, to high N-requiring crops such as corn, proper application is key to keeping those nutrients in the soil while reducing soil erosion.

Methods of applying manure into the ground without significantly disturbing the soil were presented to area farmers at the recent summer field day sponsored by the Waupaca County Forage Council.

During the morning presentations, speakers noted that a large portion of nitrogen, about half in typical liquid dairy manure, is in ammonium or urea form and can potentially be lost to the air as ammonia if the manure is not incorporated into the soil promptly.

Historically, tillage has been the most common method of incorporation, but tillage and, to a lesser extent, standard injection reduce crop residue cover, leaving the field more susceptible to erosion.

A common goal among producers is to find new methods for applying liquid dairy manure to maximize manure N availability while maintaining crop residue cover for erosion control.One of the field-day presenters, Dan Brick, of Brickstead Dairy near Greenleaf in Brown County, has become an active conservation leader, who's committed to finding solutions that maintain environmental quality while improving soil fertility.

Through the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQUIP), Brick invested in an additional 2.9-million-gallon concrete manure structure to contain manure and milk house waste through the winter until it can be spread safely as fertilizer in the spring on his 900 acres of crop and hay ground. READ MORE
Published in Manure Application
August 30, 2017, Ohio - When hay is harvested nutrients are removed from the field. A ton of alfalfa removes approximately 13 pounds of phosphorus (as P2O5) and 50 pounds of potash (as K2O). According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, Ohio harvested 2.6 tons per acre of alfalfa in 2016.

Many hay fields are not pure alfalfa. The acidic soils of the southern and eastern parts of the state make it difficult to maintain an alfalfa or clover stand so a mixed stand of grass and alfalfa/clover is common. Stands in older fields are often just mostly grass. A grass hay crop will remove just as many nutrients per ton as an alfalfa crop. The big difference is that the annual yields from grass hay fields are usually about 1.3 tons per acre lower than alfalfa fields.

Livestock manure can be used as a fertilizer source to replace nutrients removed through hay harvest. Pen pack beef manure will contain approximately 7.9 pounds of nitrogen (mostly in the organic form), 4.4 pounds of phosphorus (P2O5) and 6.6 pounds of potash (K20) per ton according to OSU Extension bulletin 604. Note that these are older book values and your actual farm manure nutrient levels can vary depending upon the animal's ration, the amount and type of bedding material used and how manure is stored and handled. The recommendation is to sample and test manure at least on a yearly basis. This will provide a more reliable indication of the actual nutrient content of the manure on your farm. For more information about how and when to sample manure, Penn State Extension has a good publication available on-line at http://extension.psu.edu/plants/nutrient-management/educational/manure-storage-and-handling/manure-sampling-for-nutrient-management-planning.

Let's assume a livestock producer wants to use pen pack beef manure to replenish the nutrients in a hay field where he harvested three tons per acre of hay. Since alfalfa and grass hay both remove similar amounts of nutrients per ton, we can assume the three tons of hay removed per acre contained 39 pounds of P2O5 and 150 pounds of K2O. If pen pack beef manure was used to replenish these nutrients, 8.8 tons per acre would be sufficient to replace the phosphorus. However, a rate of 22.7 tons per acre would be needed to replace the potash. The 22.7 ton per acre manure application rate would result in almost 100 pounds of P2O5 being applied per acre, far more than was removed in the three tons of hay.

A farmer would need to be cautious about using this practice repeatedly and growing the soil phosphorus level. It takes about 20 pounds of phosphorus applied to a field to raise the soil test level one pound per acre or two parts per million. So if the soil test level is low, the additional phosphorus from the manure would not raise the soil phosphorus level much in a single year.

The key to using livestock manure to replace the nutrients removed through hay harvest is to get even distribution of the manure across the entire field. Having mowed hay fields as a teenager, where bedded pack manure was applied, I would strongly urge an even distribution pattern across the field. Avoid large clumps that will plug the mower or interfere with regrowth.

If you are unsure how many tons per acre your solid manure spreader applies there is a simple way to make a determination. Make a heavy plastic piece that is 56 inches by 56 inches. Fasten it to the ground with weights on the corners and apply manure across the plastic. Fold up the plastic and weigh the manure captured. Many people use a bathroom scales for this. One pound of manure captured on the plastic is equivalent to one ton of manure applied per acre. Thus, if you captured 10 pounds of manure the application rate was 10 tons per acre.

It is common for county extension offices to have farmers ask; "Can manure be applied between cuttings"? The answer is "yes". Farmers commonly use liquid swine and liquid dairy manure between cuttings to replace soil nutrients and "boost" regrowth of the forage crop in northwest Ohio. There is the potential to damage the crowns of the forage plants but most farmers seem to like the results of the manure application. Solid manure could also be applied between cuttings instead of waiting until fall to apply the manure. The manure application should take place as some as the hay is baled.

Liquid beef manure is also being used to replace nutrients in hay fields. Liquid beef manure we have sampled has contained 40 pounds nitrogen (about half in the organic form and half in the ammonium form), 35 pounds of phosphorus (P2O5) and 30 pounds of potash (K20) per 1000 gallons of product. Applied with a drag hose, this can be an excellent fertilizer for a forage.

A final cautionary note regarding manure application to forage fields: If manure is coming from a herd with animals infected by Johne's disease, that disease can be transmitted by manure to healthy cattle. According to a publication from the US Dairy Forage Research Center at Madison Wisconsin and authored by Michael Russelle and Bill Jokela, the Johne's bacterium can survive on hay. Therefore, those authors' recommendation is that in herds with Johne's, manure should not be applied as a topdressing on fields that will be harvested as dry hay.
Published in Other
All farmers strive to be good stewards of the soil in their fields and the surrounding environment, but they need both solid research and the right tools to optimize their success.

Phosphorus is obviously of particular concern to crop farmers.

“The harmful algae blooms occurring in Lake Erie appear to be from increasing amounts of dissolved phosphorus reaching the lake,” says Glen Arnold, associate professor and field specialist in Manure Nutrient Management Systems at Ohio State University Extension. “The phosphorus in livestock manure is less likely to reach surface waters than the phosphorus in commercial fertilizer, as the phosphorus in livestock manure is slower to become soluble once applied to fields.”

However, Arnold notes that the over-application of livestock manure can raise soil phosphorus to very high levels and result in the element being lost through both surface runoff and through subsurface drainage tiles.

Arnold believes finding new ways of applying manure to growing crops and incorporating the manure more effectively could better assure the phosphorus stays put. His research on the application of manure to growing crops first started with topdressing wheat plots in Putnam County, Ohio, in 2004.

“We wanted to capture value from the nitrogen in manure and open up new windows of application for farmers, instead of them usually applying large amounts of manure in the fall after harvest,” he explains.

Arnold and his team approached swine farmers with finishing buildings for the wheat plot experiments, as swine manure has more nitrogen per gallon than dairy or beef manure. The Putnam County Extension Office and Soil & Water Conservation District collaborated on planning, flagging the replicated plots, field application and harvesting, with plots either receiving urea fertilizer or swine manure. When the results were analyzed, wheat yields under the manure treatments were equal to or greater than the urea treatment most of the time.

By 2009, Arnold, his colleagues and county extension educators in nearby counties were using swine manure to side dress corn plots.

“We removed the flotation wheels from a manure tanker and replaced them with narrow wheels so the manure tanker could follow the tractor down the cornrows,” he says. “The yield results were very positive as the manure treatments were similar to the commercial fertilizer treatments. During unusually dry growing seasons, the manure treatments out-yielded the commercial manure treatments. The same occurred during unusually wet growing seasons as well.”

In addition to the swine-finishing manure side dress plots, during the past year the team tried liquid beef manure and liquid dairy manure, enhanced with commercial nitrogen, to side dress corn plots.

“We used a manure tanker and Dietrich toolbar,” Arnold says. “The beef manure plots performed as well as the swine manure plots. The dairy manure plots also preformed very well, which opens many possibilities for dairy producers to sidedress corn in the years ahead.”

At this point, the team has also completed a third year of side dressing emerged corn with swine manure in Darke County, Ohio, using a drag hose. The drag hose was pulled across the emerged corn through the V3 stage of growth, and the manure incorporated during application using a seven-row VIT unit. Over three years, the corn side dressed with manure averaged 13 bushels per acre more than corn side dressed with urea ammonium nitrate.

In terms of cost differences between urea and manure, Arnold notes that farmers have to eventually land-apply the manure regardless of whether it’s applied to a growing crop or not.

“Capturing the nitrogen value pays for the cost of applying the manure,” he says.

He also believes a drag hose is faster, more efficient and alleviates soil compaction concerns compared to using a manure tanker. Drag hoses also provide flexibility in that the manure can be applied anytime from the day the crop is planted through the V3 stage of corn growth, a six-week window in Ohio if the corn is planted in late April.

In these experiments on application of manure during the growing season, Arnold and his colleagues never measured phosphorus runoff, but he says that if manure is applied in the fall, more than 50 percent of the nitrogen is generally lost, and the tillage to incorporate the manure at that time causes more soil erosion than application during crop growth.

Farmers do have to watch over-application of manure to growing wheat as it will lead to the wheat field blowing flat in June in Ohio. On corn, Arnold says there is nothing to stop a person from over-applying but the extra nitrogen would be wasted.

All-in-all, Arnold believes the application of manure to growing crops works very well. He says the farmers who have participated in the on-farm plots have been pleasantly surprised at how well livestock manure has worked as a sidedress nitrogen source for corn and as a top dress to wheat.

“In addition to providing nitrogen for the corn crop, the manure can also provide the phosphorus and potash needed for a two-year corn-soybean rotation without applying excess nutrients,” he says.

In order to convince as many livestock producers as possible of the economic and environmental advantages of applying more manure to growing crops and applying less manure after the fall harvest season, Arnold and his team will allow farmers to see results first-hand. Because he’s found that farmers who participated in the sidedress plots using a manure tanker are very interested in using a drag hose, Arnold has obtained funds from several companies to build two 12-row drag hose sidedress toolbars. He expects to have them available for loan during the 2017 growing season.

“The plan is to loan the toolbars to both livestock producers and commercial applicators,” he says. “We hope to loan them out to more than a dozen participants this summer.”

Published in Applications
August 16, 2017, Des Moines, IA – The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides technical and financial assistance to eligible livestock producers to assist with manure and nutrient management from their operations.

This article provides updates of interest to producers and technical service providers who may be interested in or are pursuing assistance from NRCS.

  • Open feedlots are an inexpensive but potentially environmentally risky way to operate an animal feeding operation. IA NRCS offers potential incentives to producers to decommission/remove open lots and convert to a roofed, confinement operation. A recently published pamphlet: "Open Feedlot Management – Best Options" offers information regarding open lot to confinement conversion.
  • IA NRCS is in the process of updating the Waste Facility Storage-313 standard. This standard provides technical guidance for planning, design, and installation of agricultural waste containments. Some of the changes include: modification of structural design requirements to account for changes in accepted concrete and timber design, improvements in safety criteria, changing requirement of staff gauge from optional to required, and the addition of criteria specific to solid manure stacking facilities. Specific proposed changes include the removal of the IDNR Open Feedlot Effluent Alternatives for Open Feedlot Operations as an acceptable design alternative to meet NRCS requirements. Also, a minimum design period is being considered for storage facilities to better integrate animal waste systems with current management and cropping systems.
  • A recently published IA Instruction: "Requirements for Subsurface Geologic Investigations for Animal Waste Storage Facilities" provides requirements that apply to technical service providers and other non-NRCS engineers who are providing technical assistance for NRCS programs. Compliance with this instruction will help ensure geologic investigative requirements have been fulfilled as noted in the deliverables of the appropriate conservation practice statement of work.
  • Another instruction of interest for technical service providers for NRCS programs is the "Technical and Financial Assistance for an Animal Feeding Operation and the Associated Land Application of Manure Through a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP)." This document provides guidance for the specific procedures, roles and responsibilities, and administrative and technical checklists to be used when technical service providers are involved in the conservation planning process for animal feeding operations.
For more information regarding NRCS technical and financial assistance visit your local NRCS field office or visit the NRCS website.
Published in State
August 11, 2017, Wexford, Ireland – More than 250 delegates from across Europe and around the world will gather in Wexford next month to discuss a range of scientific research topics with potentially profound importance for the future environmental performance of Irish agriculture.

The biennial Ramiran (Recycling of Agricultural, Municipal and Industrial Residues in Agriculture Network) conference is being hosted by Teagasc and will focus on new cutting-edge strategies and technologies to improve the efficiency of manure and residue management on farms. READ MORE

Published in Other
August 11, 2017, Olympia, WA – The Washington Department of Ecology has asked an appeals board to dismiss claims by the dairy industry that the agency vastly underestimated the cost of complying with new manure-control rules.

A motion filed Aug. 3 with the Pollution Control Hearings Board argues that WDE met its duty to compare costs for small and large dairies. The analysis led WDE to exempt dairies with fewer than 200 cows from the rules, which are meant to keep manure out of water. READ MORE
Published in State
August 10, 2017, Seneca Falls, NY – New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball recently congratulated Dueppengiesser Dairy Farm, located in Wyoming County, as the recipient of the 2017 Agricultural Environmental Management Award.

Each year, the award honors the outstanding efforts of a New York State farm to protect and preserve soil and water quality.

“Congratulations to the Dueppengiesser Farm on receiving the Agricultural Environmental Management Award,” said Ball. “This family-run farm has long worked with the Wyoming County Soil and Water Conservation District to ensure they are taking the steps to take care of the environment while increasing the profitability of their operation.”

Dueppengiesser Dairy Farm was recognized, along with the Wyoming County Soil and Water Conservation District, during a ceremony at the Empire Farm Days, being held in Seneca Falls. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, the Empire State Potato Growers, and the American Agriculturist Magazine presented the award to the family for their implementation of conservation best management practices that benefit the environment and protect the community.

“At Dueppengisser Dairy, we have always been aware of the need for environmental conservation, and we strive to implement practices that will protect our lands for the future,” said Mike Dueppengiesser, owner of Dueppengiesser Dairy Farm. “Best management practices are a priority for our farm business, and we do our best to keep up with latest technology in conservation efforts such as implementing the use of cover crops, GPS technology, zone tillage and dragline systems. Working closely with our employees, plus collaboration with the Wyoming County Soil and Water Conservation District, strengthens our environmental stewardship efforts.”

Dueppengiesser Dairy Farm is a third-generation family farm that manages nearly 2,000 milking cows and young stock and operates more than 2,000 acres of cropland, producing corn, alfalfa and wheat. As early adopters of the principles of agricultural environment management, the family has implemented several practices, such as reduced tillage, use of cover crops, and nutrient management, to protect soil and water quality. The family is also very active in the community, hosting several agricultural education programs on their farm, including the Farm Bureau School Education Program, Agri-Palooza and the Western New York Soil Health Field Day.

The farm has worked closely with the Wyoming County Soil and Water Conservation District, which provides technical assistance to advance agricultural environmental management practices within the county. The Wyoming County Soil and Water Conservation District has a very active agricultural environmental management program that has assisted over 361 farms since its inception. Their AEM Strategic Plan focuses on nutrient management and reducing cropland erosion, and Dueppengiesser Dairy Company has implemented various practices to address these issues that will improve soil health and protect water quality.    

“The Dueppengeiser family has been a pleasure to work with over the years as they have proactively undergone numerous implementation projects related to improving conservation on their farm, along with hosting many educational outreach programs on their dairy, such as soil health workshops, and Wyoming County’s Agri-Palooza event,” said Greg McKurth, Wyoming County Soil and Water Conservation District manager. “I am proud of the Wyoming County farms for working collectively and progressively with our district staff to be good stewards of the land.”

The annual Agricultural Environmental Management Award is jointly sponsored by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, American Agriculturalist Magazine, and the Empire State Potato Growers. Award winners are chosen from nominees submitted by County Soil and Water Conservation Districts from around the state.
Published in Dairy
August 9, 2017, Lake Mills, IA – Eric Christianson – a 30-year swine industry veterinarian who also operates a contract hog finishing site for Christensen Farms – has a unique perspective on the controversy brewing in nearby Worth County over the prospect of seven concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) being built.

Christianson, whose hog site is a $1.5 million operation with computers monitoring and regulating every phase of the operation, said he understands the concerns of the opponents in Worth County.

"But the science isn't there to validate their concerns," he said. READ MORE
Published in Swine
August 9, 2017, Kensett, IA – An organization calling itself Worth County Against CAFOs recently drew a crowd of about 60 at a meeting about the possible construction of several CAFOs throughout the county.

The CAFO opponents are hoping public pressure will lead to a moratorium on construction of CAFOs until Iowa’s Legislature can fix what the group alleges are “loopholes” in the state matrix that allows for easy approval of permits. READ MORE
Published in Swine
August 9, 2017, Green Bay, WI – Manure runoff from a dairy farm in Manitowoc County is affecting water quality in Pine Creek as it flows through the town of Newton, about five miles south of Manitowoc.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources responded August 7 to a complaint about a potential spill in the creek, which flows into Lake Michigan. The amount of runoff entering the stream is unknown and the impacts downriver are still being investigated at this time. The dairy is working with DNR staff to address the issue and the source from the manure pit has been controlled. Agriculture specialists with the DNR will continue to monitor water quality in the creek.

Published in Dairy
August 8, 2017, Celina, OH – About 40 area developers, politicians, farmers and business leaders gathered July 29 for the Our Land, Our Water Tour to learn more about land and manure-management efforts that could help improve Grand Lake's water quality.

The event was hosted at Schmitmeyer Farm near Coldwater and was the second annual tour and presentation meant to bring together local people from all walks of life and educate them on efforts to improve the lake. READ MORE

Published in Regional
August 8, 2017, Warsaw, NY – New state regulations that prevent farms from spreading manure on ground that is frozen or saturated has pushed improvements to agricultural waste storage capacities.

“There’s a big demand across the state, with the [NYS] DEC requiring farms to have enough storage to get through the wet and rainy seasons,” Wyoming County Soil and Water Conservation District Manager Greg McKurth told The Daily News after a new round of Agricultural Nonpoint Source Abatement and Control Program grants were announced August 7. READ MORE
Published in State
August 4, 2017, Green Bay, WI – Standing up for hundreds of dairy farmers across Wisconsin, the Dairy Business Association is demanding that the state rein in the Department of Natural Resources for overreaching its legal authority on key regulations.

The dairy group recently filed a lawsuit against the DNR that centers on how the agency implements new regulations without going through an approval process required by state law.

The lawsuit deals specifically with one example of this pattern of unlawful behavior: changes to how farmers manage rainwater that comes into contact with feed storage or calf hutch areas. Those changes, in which the DNR abruptly abandoned its own earlier directives, are causing costly fixes and still more uncertainty for farmers.

“We’re not looking for a free pass on regulations. We’re asking the DNR to follow the rules,” said Mike North, president of the association. “The agency clearly is overstepping its legal boundaries on this and other issues.”

For years, the DNR encouraged farmers to build what are called vegetative treatment areas (VTAs) where the water is safely and naturally treated to prevent runoff and protect water quality. In 2016, the agency suddenly did an about-face and began requiring farmers to collect all the water and add it to manure pits for spreading on fields.

The move circumvented Act 21, which requires agencies to follow a specific method of rulemaking based on public transparency and lawmaker oversight. The lawsuit seeks to stop DNR’s ongoing efforts to skirt the formal rulemaking process.

“Farmers are not above the law. The Department of Natural Resources shouldn’t be either,” North said.

The reversal on VTAs is causing farmers to spend millions of dollars on new storage lagoons and calf hutch improvements, creating confusion and uncertainty, and actually increasing the risk of pollution, he said.

“The DNR – unfairly, unnecessarily and illegally – is putting the livelihoods of dairy farm families at risk,” he said. “They need to be treated fairly and provided with predictability in order to run their businesses successfully.”

The lawsuit also addresses a farm’s duty to apply for a permit. Despite a state law that binds the DNR to federal standards, the DNR has incorrectly adopted its own contradictory requirement. North said the hope is the lawsuit will result in a harmonization of state and federal law, while still providing for environmental oversight of farms.

“Dairy farmers are committed to doing the right thing for their cows, their communities and the environment,” he said. “Now, we need the DNR to do the right thing in regulating our farms.”

“This lawsuit is about more than VTAs and calf-hutches,” North said. “It is about preventing the DNR from ignoring the law.”

“And this affects more than farmers,” he said. “Many businesses and others who deal with the DNR are frustrated as well. All of us – the public – should be concerned when a state agency exceeds its authority. There is a tremendous amount at stake.”
Published in Dairy
August 1, 2017, Steven’s Point, WI – A coalition of grassroots environmental groups is calling for a statewide moratorium on new and expanding CAFO permits in Wisconsin.

Sustain Rural Wisconsin Network recently forwarded a letter to the Wisconsin State Farmer urging state legislators to “press the pause button” on new and expanding CAFOs in Wisconsin and put public health and safety before an “open for business” mantra. READ MORE
Published in Dairy
When Tim Sigrist came back to the family farm in Dundee, Ohio, after college, his father John told him he needed to find a new revenue stream. Eventually that would be a booming composted manure business, but first Tim drove a canned milk route.

“Not long after, we learned that the soil surrounding the farm where we had been spreading liquid manure was completely saturated with nutrients,” he remembers. “At the time, in the early 1990s, we had over 350 dairy cattle. Our extension agent suggested composting our solid manure and we decided to try it as a way to deal with the excess manure. The idea of selling the compost came later.”

There were no best practices available for manure composting – let alone much basic research – so Tim was left to experiment with different methods (more on that later). But success was achieved and by 1994, Bull Country Compost was born.

Demand was strong right away – Sigrist made the product attractive by offering delivery – but as word spread, demand started to outstrip supply. They needed more manure, and about three years in, another revenue stream was born through taking horse manure from their Amish neighbors along with manure from other area farms.

Nowadays, Bull Country Compost is one of the largest Class III EPA-inspected composting facilities in Northeast Ohio.

“In 2016, we sold over 45,000 bags of compost, up from 36,000 in 2014,” Sigrist says proudly. “But we actually sell more product in bulk cubic yards than in bagged form to both consumer and retail markets.”

Ten percent of the manure currently comes from their farm (Tim’s parents John and Linda sold the dairy cows in 2013 but continue to raise about 120 dairy heifers), with the remaining from other farms, auction barns and seasonal fairs.

“We have farms where we haul out once a year and others where we do pick-up every week,” says Sigrist. “All locations pay us to take it away and there is a monthly fee to have a dumpster placed. Due to wear and tear on the dumpsters and the extensive cost of trucking – and the fact that some locations are up to 100 miles away – we can’t haul it for free.”

Indeed, it was early on that Sigrist realized it would be easier to provide large manure collection bins at farms, and that number of bins continues to grow.

“They’re 30-yard roll-off dumpsters made by a nearby manufacturer,” he says. “Because manure is so corrosive, we have to continually repair and replace them.”  

Back when he started, Tim knew the basics of composting. Factors such as the type of manure, composting method (oxygenation) and weather would all affect timelines and quality of the final product. He first tried windrows turned by tractor, but it was labor intensive and the Ohio rains kept the material too wet. He researched various types of vessel structures and built one of his own with a concrete base.

“It was 150-by-80 feet with a homemade top supported by wood beams,” Sigrist explains. “There were two rows of material 10-feet wide.”

Over time, he added more vessels, making them wider to accommodate larger equipment, better aerated and better able deal with excess water. Older vessels were aerated using pipes running through the manure, and newer vessels have aeration constructed into the concrete floor through ditches with perforated pipes. This arrangement allows liquid to flow out as composting proceeds.

“The liquid is captured in a drainage system that empties into our manure lagoon,” Sigrist explains. “There is a small fan in each vessel that feeds into the perforated pipes to aid air flow, and this significantly increases the temperature as well.”

Newer vessels also sport a higher hoop roof, which also boosts airflow.  

The manure is composted for six to eight weeks being moved to one of three curing sheds for six to eight months. Screening is next, then bagging in the bagging shed or placement in piles for bulk sale. Sigrist created the bagging system using auger equipment and a homemade conveyor, with which four employees can bag and stack almost five tons of compost an hour.

In total, Bull Country Compost has eight vessels, with 3,000 yards of material continually being processed by about nine employees, some full-time and some part-time/seasonal (Sigrist says that similarly to many industries, finding people willing to do manual labor like bagging can be difficult). The entire operation stretches over three acres.

Multiple groups from both Ohio State University and various local soil and water conservation districts have toured the site, and Sigrist has hosted curious visitors from as far away as Alaska.

While years ago people were generally unsure about composted manure, that has changed.

“It’s been 25 years and we have many loyal customers,” Sigrist says. “Word of mouth is the best advertisement there is. Also, many of our retail locations have an open bag of compost beside the pallet of bags for sale, and this helps people to ‘see, smell and feel’ the compost. Also, through the media and internet, people’s general awareness of soil and environmental health has risen and many consumers have learned the difference between raw manure and compost on their own.”

The farm is still active, with the heifers and 500 acres of crops. Sigrist says the manure composting and farm activities support each other in unique ways, making the entire operation able to support multiple generations of his family.

The composting business has also allowed the family to branch out into offering other services such as custom litter spreader application and custom harvesting. No specific new markets or products are being pursued, but Sigrist says they are always keen to gain a larger share of the soil amendment market at garden centers, and always listen to feedback from customers and garden professionals.

“The entire journey has been a big learning experience,” he reflects. “From finding new markets and keeping up with growth to creating vessels and streamlining the process, we had to develop our own model as there weren’t any of its kind at the time.”

One project Sigrist hopes finish in the future is to pipe heat generated by the compost to the bagging shed.

“That way, bagging can start earlier in the year in more comfort,” he says. “I haven’t gotten to it yet, but in the meantime, we bought the employees nice insulated jackets!”

Published in Profiles
July 31, 2017, Waunakee, WI - A coalition of government, farmers, businesses and clean water advocates have come up with plan to help more farmers in southern Wisconsin apply liquid manure more effectively without disturbing the soil so other conservation practices can be protected.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced the partnership July 13 at Carl F. Statz and Sons machinery dealer in Waunakee, another partner in the project.

The effort will make available a Low Disturbance Manure Injection (LDMI) toolbar – a way to apply liquid manure while cutting down on soil erosion, odors and the amount of phosphorus leaving their fields, Parisi said during a short ceremony.

"Our partnership reflects a unified effort between local leaders and businesses to ensure the Yahara Watershed stays clean and healthy while providing farmers with innovative tools they need to succeed in an environmentally friendly way," he said.

Dane County and the Yahara Watershed Improvement Network (Yahara WINS) will each allocate up to $60,000 to purchase a manure tanker and the toolbar. Yahara Pride Farms will rent a tractor from the Waunakee-based implement dealer to haul the tanker and LDMI toolbar on each participant's fields.

The county's share of the deal is contingent upon approval of the allocation by the county board.

Brian Peterson, with Field's, a Mt. Horeb-based manure handling business, said it makes sense to him to have a specific tractor dedicated to using the manure-injection equipment.

"That will give it uniformity from use to use," he said. "They wanted to have something that any farmer could use."

The unit which was at the press conference is one that is being used on a Waunakee area farm, Henson Brothers Dairy, and several other farmers in the watershed are using the technology. Field's will supply a new manure tanker, toolbar and unit once the deal is finalized.

The technology was shown to farmers at a Yahara Pride field day and it created a lot of interest, Peterson said. "Farmers like it because you can't see a lot of disturbance after it goes over the field – not like you'd see with a shovel-type injector."

The flow is based on a pump and PTO speed as well as tractor speed, he explained and the unit coming for Yahara Pride will have a flow meter which will indicate to the driver how many gallons are going on.

"This system, once it was showcased in this watershed, built interest further away than just right around here," Peterson said. "It has been building interest through the county and the region." READ MORE 
Published in Manure Application

Subscription Centre

New Subscription
Already a Subscriber
Customer Service
View Digital Magazine Renew

Most Popular

Latest Events

NutrientSmart 2.0
Fri Mar 23, 2018 @ 9:00AM - 04:00PM
2018 Western United Dairymen Annual Conference
Wed Mar 28, 2018 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
2018 World Pork Expo
Wed Jun 06, 2018 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
Anaerobic Digester Operator Training – Wisconsin
Tue Jun 19, 2018 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
2018 North American Manure Expo
Wed Aug 15, 2018 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM